Foot in Mouth, Pen in Hand

I’ll be leading two sessions at the Whidbey Island Writers Conference, on October 24th and 25th, including a Saturday morning workshop, “Humor and Heartache: Injecting Levity into Serious Stories.” The faculty members were all asked to write a blog post on a variety of topics that give advice to attendees, and I chose My Most Memorable Writers Conference Interaction from their list of suggested prompts. (Read it on the WIWC site or below.)

Pam Houston looks great, while I am of course talking with my hands
Pam Houston looks great, while I am of course talking with my hands

To convey the spirit of my class, I wrote about my most embarrassing conference moment. It’s important to remember that conferences are fun, and teachers are human and approachable. This story is more about personal humiliation than heartache, and it illustrates how our own missteps are often the best fodder for humor.Read More »

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No-Doors from a Four-Door (Four Scenes)

Meandering Route
Meandering Route

Heat and wildfires dogged us on a 1,500-mile, nine-day, summer car trip from Seattle to Reno that we stretched into 2,233 miles with a meandering route. Also dogging us was the specter at our back: yesteryear’s “us” that used to take such trips on a motorcycle when we were unencumbered by so much as a spare pair of underwear. I noticed every bike that Dopplered past, especially when two bikers passed each other and gave each other The Biker Wave—I was no longer part of the club. I thought about bikes with envy when we drove down a shady, gently curving, lightly travelled lane. I thought about bikes with relief when the thermometer read 108 and we rolled up the windows and punched the A/C, passed the Little Monkey his bag of melted Dollar Tree snacks, and popped in the Lewis & Clark Fiddle Tunes CD that’s the Little Monkey’s favorite—perfect music for an 1804 finding-a-road trip and perfect for a 2014 get-off-the-beaten-path road trip in a cool, quiet VW wagon.

I. His Wife Will be a Widow Cougar

We missed our turnoff at the northeast corner of Mount Rainier. Once we realized our error, we had a quiet discussion (ahem) about whether we should stick with the unintended new route or turn around. The Man I Married, at the helm at the time, slowly and carefully (ahem) turned the car around at the next wide spot in the road, between blind curves; he left plenty of room (ahem) between his back wheels and a minor drop-off of about 4,000 feet. I cheerfully and calmly (ahem) admired the scenery while he seesawed the wagon across both lanes on a major highway. (The Man I Married misses travel by bike because I can’t backseat drive, though I do my best with nonverbal communication; I could teach Braille and ASL.)

MIM backtracked and took the correct turnoff this time, though I gently suggested that he was crossing into the oncoming lane, and he affectionately reassured me that I was perhaps confused.

Just past the turnoff, a herd of 20 or so bikers had pulled off onto the narrow shoulder. Cars and RVs piled up around them.

“A cougar!” LM shouted from the backseat. “Napping in the field!”

A hump of Van Gogh yellow glowed from the alpine meadow snugged at the crook of two highways. This is like The Man I Married managing to nap after a triple espresso while the Little Monkey practices his A-minor scale on the violin.

Also in the meadow: a biker in full leathers, creeping toward the cougar.Read More »